Original Article

Community Socioeconomic and Urban–Rural Disparities in Prehospital Notification of Stroke by Emergency Medical Services in North Carolina

Authors: Rayad B. Shams, BS, Srihari V. Chari, MPH, Eric R. Cui, MS, Antonio R. Fernandez, PhD, Jane H. Brice, MD, MPH, James E. Winslow, MD, MPH, Edward C. Jauch, MD, MS, Mehul D. Patel, PhD


Objectives: Notification by emergency medical services (EMS) to the destination hospital of an incoming suspected stroke patient is associated with timelier in-hospital evaluation and treatment. Current data on adherence to this evidence-based best practice are limited, however. We examined the frequency of EMS stroke prenotification in North Carolina by community socioeconomic status (SES) and rurality.

Methods: Using a statewide database of EMS patient care reports, we selected 9-1-1 responses in 2019 with an EMS provider impression of stroke or documented stroke care protocol use. Eligible patients were 18 years old and older with a completed prehospital stroke screen. Incident street addresses were geocoded to North Carolina census tracts and linked to American Community Survey socioeconomic data and urban–rural commuting area codes. High, medium, and low SES tracts were defined by SES index tertiles. Tracts were classified as urban, suburban, and rural. We used multivariable logistic regression to estimate independent associations between tract-level SES and rurality with EMS prenotification, adjusting for patient age, sex, and race/ethnicity; duration of symptoms; incident day of week and time of day; 9-1-1 dispatch complaint; EMS provider primary impression; and prehospital stroke screen interpretation.

Results: The cohort of 9527 eligible incidents was mostly at least 65 years old (65%), female (55%), and non-Hispanic White (71%). EMS prenotification occurred in 2783 (29%) patients. Prenotification in low SES tracts (27%) occurred less often than in medium (30%) and high (32%) SES tracts. Rural tracts had the lowest frequency (21%) compared with suburban (28%) and urban (31%) tracts. In adjusted analyses, EMS prenotification was less likely in low SES (vs high SES; odds ratio 0.76, 95% confidence interval 0.67–0.88) and rural (vs urban; odds ratio 0.64, 95% confidence interval 0.52–0.77) tracts.

Conclusions: Across a large, diverse population, EMS prenotification occurred in only one-third of suspected stroke patients. Furthermore, low SES and rural tracts were independently associated with a lower likelihood of prehospital notification. These findings suggest the need for education and quality improvement initiatives to increase EMS stroke prenotification, particularly in underserved communities.

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